Interval And Ratio Reinforcement Of A Complex Sequential Operant In Pigeons

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Journal Of The Experimental Analysis Of Behavior


Pigeons were required to produce exactly four pecks on each of two keys in any order for reinforcement. Correct response sequences were reinforced on either fixed-interval two-minute or fixed-ratio four schedules, with each correct sequence treated as a single response. Each pigeon developed a particular dominant sequence that accounted for more than 80% of all sequences. Sequence stereotypy was relatively unaffected by the temporal properties of the fixed-interval and fixed-ratio schedules. Response time (time from the first response in each sequence to the last) was also relatively unaffected by the temporal properties of the schedules. In contrast, response latency (time from end of one sequence to the beginning of the next) was markedly affected by the schedules. Latencies were long early in the interreinforcement interval and got shorter as the interreinforcement interval progressed. These data suggest that stereotyped response sequences become functional behavioral units, resistant to disruption or alteration by reinforcement variables that ordinarily influence the temporal spacing of individual responses.